Did Phil Go Too Far?
By Torleif Sorenson on 9/29/14

At the formal press conference following Team USA's loss to Europe at the 40th Ryder Cup on Sunday in Scotland, Phil Mickelson answered two questions with answers that sounded a lot like second-guessing his "anti-pod-ian" captain, Tom Watson:
QUESTION: Anyone that was on the team at Valhalla, can you put your finger on what worked in 2008 and what hasn't worked since?

PHIL MICKELSON: There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process. He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, who -- when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod. In my case, we had Ray Floyd, and we hung out together and we were all invested in each other's play.

We were invested in picking Hunter that week; Anthony Kim and myself and Justin were in a pod, and we were involved on having Hunter be our guy to fill our pod. So we were invested in the process. And the other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us, you know, how we were going to go about doing this. How we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well, we had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf. And I think that, you know, we all do the best that we can and we're all trying our hardest, and I'm just looking back at what gave us the most success. Because we use that same process in The Presidents Cup and we do really well.

Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.

QUESTION: That felt like a pretty brutal destruction of the leadership that's gone on this week.

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I'm sorry you're taking it that way. I'm just talking about what Paul Azinger did to help us play our best. It's certainly -- I don't understand why you would take it that way. You asked me what I thought we should do going toward to bring our best golf out and I go back to when we played our best golf and try to replicate that formula.

QUESTION: That didn't happen this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Uh (pausing) no. No, nobody here was in any decision. So, no.

Just two questions later, another reporter posed the issue to captain Watson who, like a true leader, attempted some diplomacy:
QUESTION: Can you tell us what you think of what Phil said about Paul Azinger?

TOM WATSON: I had a different philosophy as far as being a captain of this team. You know, it takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players. And I felt -- I based my decisions on -- yes, I did talk to the players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions as to whom to pair with. I had a different philosophy than Paul. I decided not to go that way. But I did have most of them play in the practice rounds together who played most of the time in the matches. I think that was the proper thing to do. Yes, I did mix-and-match a little bit from there, but again, you have to go with the evolution of the playing of the match and see who is playing the best and who to play with whom, and that's what I did.

QUESTION: Do you think that Phil was being disloyal, because it sounded like that?

TOM WATSON: Not at all. He has a difference of opinion. That's okay. My management philosophy is different than his.
Watson's impromptu attempt to diffuse the issue didn't work out so well, but that is not a reflection on him. Instead, tongues have been wagging and the Twitter-verse has been tweeting ever since — almost universally taking Mickelson apart for his comments.

What say you, oobers?

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[ comments ]
jasonfish11 says:
Figjam isn't capable of accepting blame. If it can't be him he has to put the blame somewhere.
Jattruia says:
This is blown pretty far out of proportion.
SteadyHoo says:
Maybe Phil shouldn't have said what he said, but he wasn't wrong. Tom Watson now joins Hal Sutton as worst U.S. captains in memory.
aaronm04 says:
Watson didn't exactly have a lot to pick from. The majority of better players right now are European. The best American right now--Horschel--didn't emerge as such until after the picks were due. I'd say Watson's most dubious decision was picking Phil.
mustang6560 says:
The latest example of society wanting its cake and wanting to eat its cake, too.

We want athletes and the like to provide honest answers, yet we're waiting with fork and knife in hand to devour them when they do. The US has lost three Ryder Cups in a row and eight out of the last 10. Maybe Phil is on to something. Maybe not. Either way, the man is entitled to his opinion and we shouldn't be so quick to chastise him for sharing it. He did, after all, finish with the third best record behind Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth - the two young Rookies!
legitimatebeef says:
Phil is usually good about calculating and tempering remarks to ingratiate popular opinion but nobody is 100% error-proof. It sounds to me like he got caught in a bad moment, fresh off a frustrating defeat, jet-lagged, tired, missing his personal chef back home, etc and let loose some snipes that under normal circumstances, he would know better to at least couch in more PC terms. I am betting that he before long he will backtrack and apologize in some fashion. He never struck me as one who relishes the role of the heel.
legitimatebeef says:
Also was Nathan always this preachy? "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED????" etc.
Bertie_16 says:
If you lose you're a horrible captain, if you win you're a great captain. Phil seems to be in love with what Azinger did, but a pod system wouldn't have saved this team. If the pods were used and they lost then what? Would more player input have save Ricky Fowler from several bad chip shots? Would it have kept Phil and Keegan from spraying the ball all over the course on Saturday? Colin Montgomerie made a great point that Europe instituted a the pod system, their pod consists of 12 players though all playing together well. Phil probably should have just kept his trap shut, but I'm not surprised that he didn't as I think he is the fakest player out there.
bkuehn1952 says:
If I had enjoyed great success in golf at all levels of competition but spent Saturday acting as a cheerleader and got to watch Europe celebrate for the 8th time out of 10 tries, I might not have been so diplomatic.
mustang6560 says:
Jason W., what? I think you misinterpreted my comment. Let me restate my opinion with fewer words -- I agree with Jason A. This story is being blown way out of proportion.
Duke of Hazards says:
Americans need to get drunk together and sue each other more. And who the hell came up with the term 'pod'? I want to punch him in the face.
homermania says:
Should have played Tiger.
Trip says:
I don't think any combo of Americans would have beat the Europeans this year. Except maybe some of the Korean women.
joe jones says:
Yada,Yada,Yada. If my grandma had a set of wheels she would be a wagon. Shoulda, coulda,woulda..Everybody shut up, swallow your pride and admit that you got beat by a better TEAM. The USA talks about how much they like each other but they play as individuals and go their own way after each event. The Euros travel together, eat together they are not driven by nationalistic pride but by team spirit. I said weeks ago that the USA should turn the team over to the young guns. Thank God we had them. It could have been a shut out without them.
slimpks1850 says:
What? No. Are you crazy??
Phil's classy. Just ask him. Or his flock of drooling fans. They'll be real quick to tell you how classy he is.

Top notch.
CeeBee says:
Just another ass whipping by team Europe. Beautiful.
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